Make Your Personal and Professional Development Count As An Accountant

As an accountant you have worked hard to get your professional qualification.  You realised that to get beyond a certain level you had to pass those exams, no matter how much a struggle it might have been.

Once upon a time having a professional accounting qualification was almost a guarantee of building a successful career.  These days it’s just a stepping stone.

What I’ve noticed over almost 40 years in the accounting field is this.  It’s not always the smartest, brightest and technically gifted who get on in their careers.

I’m a prime example.  I left school at 15 with basic qualifications.  I started at the bottom as a Payments Clerk.  My last job in accounting before I decided to start my own business was as a Finance Director.  I got my CIMA qualification and it was hard work.

There’s a lot of talk about the importance of personal and professional development but in my experience there’s a huge variation in how seriously people take it.

If you work in a big organisation your employer will more than likely offer a lot of support.  Equally I’ve been surprised just how few people take full advantage of what’s on offer.   Which is a real shame.

Of course if you are going to undertake personal and professional development you want to make it count and make a difference to your career.  So how do you do this?

Determine what you want from your accountancy career

You are unique.  Only you can decide what you really want from your accountancy career.  There is no right or wrong about your decisions.

What’s important is that you set aside some time to get a level of clarity about where you are heading in your career.

Consider where the profession is heading

There’s a lot of articles and discussion around the future of finance.  How the role might change, what impact technologies might have and what skill sets are going to be needed.

Your qualification gets you access to roles at a higher level.  Your development should be about the future.  About staying relevant and being adaptable.

Unless you are consciously thinking about this, there’s a real risk of becoming out of date and of limited value to organisations in the future.

Go for breadth in your personal and professional development

Of course it’s important to stay up to date technically.  On the other hand it’s important that there is breadth in your personal and professional development.  Potential areas of focus could include:

  1. Technology – not just Excel or modelling but harnessing it to help Finance add more value and improve productivity.
  2. Leadership – areas like self leadership and leading teams are core. Leading change, innovation and major scale projects is increasingly important.
  3. Business – there really is a host of areas you could focus on. Negotiating, presenting, communication, decision making, marketing, sales, human resources, relationship building, partnering to name just a few.

Take different approaches

Training courses, seminars and workshops are excellent ways of learning, practising and improving a skill.  Sometimes on the job experience is much more valuable.  It’s also worth looking at coaching and mentoring too.

Measure and adapt

The real test of any personal or professional development is the impact it has on your performance.  Being clear about where you are now and where you want to be will give you a clear basis to measure improvement.

It’s also important to adapt what you have learned to fit your own situation and context.

The bottom line:  Your personal and professional development can have a significant impact on your career success in my experience.  The questions you need to ask yourself are:

  1. Will you make it a priority?
  2. Will you make it count?

About the Author Duncan Brodie

In summary since 2006 I’ve worked with in excess of 6,000 accountants and professionals in workshops, seminars and one to one helping them achieve career success and become better leaders and presenters. Before that I spent 25 years in accountancy climbing the career ladder from Payments Clerk to FD. I’m a CIMA Fellow, Certified Professional Coach and Team Coach Facilitator.

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